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Neidra Covington tackles the long jump, triple jump and relays at state, with a good chance of medaling in all.
By BOB PUTNAM
Published May 5, 2005
By the time Neidra Covington rocked back on her heels and exploded down the runway, she left the rest of the triple jump competition behind her.
The Boca Ciega junior ran with light-footed speed, hit the board well and twice bounded low through the hop and step phases of the triple.
Then in the jump, she rose with remarkable power and soared above the pit. By the time she landed, Covington sailed past an imaginary line in the sand she had crossed only once before.
The imprint of her heels, which had not been raked, was measured. It read 41 feet, 1/2 inch.
After that, the event was over.
It was a cruel fate for the other 15 competitors whose quest for a region title ended as soon as they arrived, hopes squashed by one of the nation's best.
Covington's best mark this season is 41-10, which ranks fourth in the nation among non wind-aided jumps. It also surpassed the state record of 41-71/2 set in 1998 by Shannell Miller of Miami Northwestern.
To make it official, Covington will need to hit that mark again Friday at the Class 3A state meet in Coral Springs.
But this time she will not have as much ground between her and the rest of the competitors. In fact, she's not even seeded first.
The top seed belongs to Jacksonville Ed White's Tiara Swanagan, who last week leaped 42-51/2.
Covington and Swanagan will spend most of the day trying to leapfrog each other in an event that will have state and national implications.
"The competition is between the two of them," Pirates coach John Ingram said. "They could both break the state record."
But Covington cannot concentrate solely on that event. She is tied with Jenna Utech of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas for the top seed in the long jump (19-1).
Covington topped her statewide nemesis at the Disney Showcase in Orlando two months ago, clearing 19-0 to beat Utech by a foot.
"I think I can do well in both events," Covington said. "I think I can win. My goal is to go 42 feet in the triple jump and 20 feet in the long jump. I've come close before and probably hit those marks on jumps where I've scratched, so I know it's realistic."
Covington also will be running an anchor leg on the 4x100 relay team that's seeded fourth and the second leg on the 4x400 relay. Ingram said the 4x100 team would have been seeded first if not for a bad handoff at last week's regional.
"We're undefeated in the 4x100 and have lowered our time at each meet," Ingram said. "So I'm confident we'll be in the mix. Same with the 4x400.